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BY EVAN THOMAS
The FTC has closed an investigation into Google’s tracking practices in expensive fashion, with
a record-setting $22.5 million civil penalty against the search giant.
The FTC investigation found Google was violating an earlier privacy settlement by placing tracking
cookies within users’ Safari web browsers. On top of the fines, Google is ordered to
disable those and all other cookies it has placed in violation of the original FTC order.
A writer for Forbes talked to those involved in the case, wondering what the justification
was for that record fine.
“I asked how the FTC came up with $22.5 million as the fine. One of the FTC lawyers
said the agency ‘doesn’t want to cripple the company,’ and that this is a ‘calculation
of the company’s ill-gotten gains’ and ‘misrepresentation’ to consumers what
its practices were.”
It turns out $22.5 million would put a dent in Google for all of about five hours. As
it stands, the Register says, it’s a largely symbolic move.
“Nonetheless, the payout is ridiculously small change to Google - which racks up sales
of over $20m roughly every five hours. Indeed, the US regulator acknowledged the fact that
the company generates billions of dollars of revenue annually.”
CNET picked up Google’s statement on the settlement, in which the company points out
it’s already taken steps to fix the problems.
"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before
our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy. We have
now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal
information, from Apple's browsers."
ZDnet says, considering the settlement was a mere drop in the ocean for Google, things
could have been a lot worse.
“…Google escaped a full FTC investigation which could have made the settlement penalty
look meager at best. The settlement does not constitute an admission that Google was in
breach of the law.”